Poetry Magazine has been a really great way for me to find poets I had never heard about and look for more of their work, but also to hear completely new voices, poets that have never published before that I can now follow and see their growth. But, as poetry usually is, it has always been more of a hit or miss – some poems made me cry, some made me angry, some mesmerised me, while others left me indifferent.
However, the January 2022 issue of the magazine is so close to being perfect I am starting to think perfection might, in fact, exist. This issue was a lot more radical than all the other ones I’ve read, it didn’t shy away from using words like communism, socialism, anti-capitalism, or from expressing solidarity with radical movements.
First of all, it has three essays I am thrilled I got to read. Two of them were on crip ecologies, based on some events that took place last year – you can actually watch the recording of the event with Kay Ulanday Barrett and Petra Kuppers here. Both essays speak about disability – being a disabled poet and artist and the way the publishing industry fails disabled writers, being a disabled adult but being repeatedly infantilised, or just existing in the world as a disabled person; there actually might be no such thing as one world we live in together, but a plurality of worlds that we each experience based on our own bodies, neurotypes, geographical and social positions, worlds that we cannot fully express to other people, that can make communication difficult, but also so much more precious.
The last essay is on Race and Radicalism in Appalachian Poetics, a topic I must say I know very little about. It talks about Don West (1906 – 1992), a white American poet that was a civil-rights activist, anti-fascist, socialist and a good ally to other social justice causes. Apart from the historical value of the essay, it also raises two points:
- Maybe we should stop making excuses for people – writers, politicians, philosophers – living 50 or 100 years ago because they didn’t know better, or they couldn’t have known better. The truth is they really could have known better and they should have known better and we are allowed to criticise them for it, while still looking at their work with actual interest. I know it’s very hard to believe, but this is possible, it doesn’t have to be either cancelling someone or eternally loving them;
- Even people like Don West, who seem to be great, to have everything sorted out, to be on the right side of everything, they still have faults and even if it seems they don’t, they cannot be the center of our liberation movements. They can be allies, joining the fight, but they cannot lead it, they cannot be the ones making the requests, when the people fighting for their own liberation can do it and will definitely do it a lot better.
So yeah, let’s just stop idolising people, I guess?
In terms of actual poems, there are some breathtaking pieces. I loved most of them so I am going to mention those that stayed with me, that I am still thinking about sometimes:
- Kareem Tayyar’s Personal History and Dream Journal
If you cup your hands as a hard rain begins
then you are days away from falling in love.
If you find that you cannot run when you want to
then there is a book that you need to reread.
If you awaken in a field of strawberries
then a long journey awaits you.
If you eat the strawberries
then you won’t be going alone.
- all of Marissa Davis‘ poems
- David A. Reyes’ La Equis – probably my favourite and by far the most radical
all Sebastian has to say is
controversy is always good because if there
wasn’t any, the piece wouldn’t have any sense.
It would have been mediocre.
Mr. Sebastian, you’re a really smart guy—controversy is good
at the expense of the people? How does your meal taste
when you turn on Televisa to see the bodies littered?
Look at you, good sir, with your big shiny award
from el presidente. I can’t blame you and your friends,
Sir Sebastian; there is a whole lot of grimy money to burn.
- the absolutely gripping poem written by Alison Thumel about grief that concludes this issue in the best possible way.
Like most human bodies, most buildings
have full lives, and then they die.
I am writing this as I am waiting for the February issue to be delivered to me so let’s hope it’s going to be just as good.